Last Updated on May 10, 2022 by Rei Garnet
There are a lot of reasons why a rabbit would bite its owners all of a sudden. It could be hormonal, injury, stress, or a defense mechanism.
As rabbit owners, we have to be aware of what is causing this behavior in order to properly respond and hopefully avoid it in the future.
So without further ado, let’s get started:
Reasons why your rabbit is biting you all of a sudden.
In order to stop your rabbit from biting, you must first know why they do it in the first place. Only then can you know what to do in order to stop it.
Here are the most common reasons why a rabbit is biting its owner:
1. Your rabbit is in pain.
Rabbits that are injured or in pain will often unintentionally bite their owners if touched. If you suspect that your rabbit is injured or in pain, immediately take it to a veterinarian for a professional opinion.
Moreover, aggression is not the only symptom that a rabbit is in pain. Usually, rabbits have multiple symptoms, like:
- Appetite change
- Rapid breathing
- Loud tooth grinding
- Low energy
- High-pitched noise
You can also look for physical symptoms of injuries by examining your rabbit’s fur and body. Just be careful that you handle them gently to avoid injuring them further or having them bite you.
Here are the most common signs of physical injury that you can look for:
- Check your rabbit’s legs for lameness or limping.
- Look for open wounds.
- Check your rabbit’s ear for mites or infections.
- Check your rabbit’s abdomen for any abnormalities.
- Notice where your rabbit is focusing when licking or scratching. There could be a problem in that area.
Finally, it’s important that you bring your rabbit for a regular checkup in order to maintain its health. Also, a veterinarian has a better eye for noticing injuries.
2. Your rabbit is just defending itself.
Another reason why your rabbit is biting you all of a sudden is self-defense. This often happens to new rabbit owners if their rabbit doesn’t trust them yet.
There are a lot of reasons why a rabbit would want to defend themselves, like defending their territory, food, or kits. If this is the case, then the only thing you can do is to give them some space and wait for them to come to you.
Finally, it could also be that you startled your rabbit and he bit you as a natural reaction to their instinct kicking in.
In any case, when a rabbit bites you while defending themselves, try to forgive them because it’s just their instinct and it doesn’t mean that they hate you.
3. Your rabbit is protecting its food.
Rabbits can also be aggressive when it comes to food. This behavior usually happens to rabbits that are underfed or have a natural instinct to protect their food.
Because food is scarcer in the wild, rabbits in the wild are constantly in competition with one another for food. As a result, this behavior is often seen even in domesticated, well-fed rabbits.
You can try to correct this behavior by doing the following:
- Associate your hand as a “food source” and it should not be bitten. You can do this by manually giving your rabbit treats or pellets by hand.
- Make sure that your rabbit has a constant supply of hay to prevent food aggression due to hunger.
- Disperse their food in their cage so that they won’t be territorial over their food bowl.
4. Your rabbit wants to assert dominance.
If left unneutered, sexually mature rabbits or rabbits that are more than 6 months old will often shift to more aggressive behavior. The reason for this behavior is that at this stage, the rabbit’s hormone levels are high.
The solution to this is to get your rabbits neutered to reduce or even eliminate this aggressive behavior. Rabbits that are 4 months old can already be neutered.
Moreover, female rabbits are more prone to being aggressive behavior when pregnant.
5. Your rabbit is protecting its territory or kits.
Pregnant or lactating rabbits are often aggressive due to their instinct to protect their kits. Likewise, rabbits that are hormonal due to being pregnant can also cause this aggressive biting behavior.
Be careful when your rabbit is pregnant or already nursing her kits. The best course of action during this time is to just leave your rabbit alone and respect their space.
Finally, rabbits that are in the nest-building stage where they build a nest for their kits can also be territorial and will often bite their owners, even if they have already bonded.
6. Your rabbit has been abused or neglected in the past.
Another possible reason why your rabbit is aggressive and biting is past neglect or abuse. This is more common for rabbits that are adopted because rabbits that are turned over are often those that were neglected.
If you’re planning on adopting one, you should inquire about the rabbit’s past so that you can adjust accordingly to possible unwanted behaviors you might encounter.
If your rabbit has been neglected and abused in the past, you can do the following:
- Let your rabbit become familiar with your place.
- Leave them alone unless they come to you.
- Provide enough food, water, and space.
- Give your rabbit treats using your hand. Make sure that the treats are long enough so your rabbit doesn’t accidentally bite you.
- If your rabbit is allowing you to touch them, only pet them in the head, back, and behind the ears. Rabbits don’t like to be touched on their neck, stomach, and hind legs.
- If your rabbit is unneutered, talk to your vet about neutering it.
7. Your rabbit is not neutered.
Rabbits that are unneutered can become aggressive and begin biting when they hit their teenage years. During this time, a rabbit’s hormones are all over the place and they can become extremely territorial.
That’s why it’s always a good idea to get your rabbits neutered. You can prevent a lot of unwanted behavior, like:
You can get your rabbit neutered when they reach their maturity, which can be as early as 4 months.
8. Your rabbit is stressed
You can tell when your rabbit is stressed by looking at the following signs:
- Tense body
- Flattened ears
- Running away from you
- Lack of nose twitching
- Aggressive behaviors
If you notice any of this behavior, it’s important that you find the cause of your rabbit’s stress. These could be:
- Small living area.
- Not enough playtime
- Poor diet
- No social interaction (living alone).
How do you stop your rabbit from biting you?
The first thing you should do is find out the reason why your rabbit is biting you. If you suspect that the reason is medical or that your rabbit is sick or injured, immediately bring them to a vet.
If the problem is hormones, or if your rabbit is unneutered, then consider getting your rabbit neutered to limit those unwanted behaviors.
If the problem is stress, past abuse, or neglect, then give your rabbit some time and be patient with them. Provide treats by hand to associate them with food. Just make sure that the treats are long enough so they don’t accidentally bite you.
Finally, it could also be that your rabbit is biting you by mistake because you accidentally startled them.
Here’s a great video on how to properly stop your rabbit from biting you:
Does this mean your rabbit hates you?
If you’re doing everything right and you’re not abusing your rabbit, then your rabbit doesn’t hate you. Most of the time, a rabbit will only bite someone because of their instinct kicking in.
You have to understand that rabbits are prey creatures and are very cautious at all times. That’s why we, their owners, need to be more understanding of their behavior and adjust accordingly.
How to treat rabbit bites?
Pet rabbit bites are typically not serious and wouldn’t require any medical attention. If your rabbit bites you enough to break the skin (blood), you should just wash the bite wound using soap and water.
You should also apply some antibiotic cream to prevent any possibility of infection. You should then apply something to cover the wound, like band-aids.
If you suspect that your rabbit is sick or potentially carries a zoonotic disease (a disease or infection that can be passed to humans from animals), you should seek medical attention.
You might also want to read: Can Rabbits Carry Rabies?
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
Why is your rabbit biting you but no one else?
If your rabbit is biting you but no one else, it’s possible that your rabbit is asserting dominance over you or you’ve done something to annoy him in the past. For example, if your rabbit doesn’t like to be picked up (like most rabbits) and you’re always doing it to him, he might bite you in retaliation for your action.
Why is your rabbit biting you when you try to hold it?
If your rabbit is biting you when you try to hold them, it’s either because your rabbit is in pain and you’re holding them on the spot that hurts, or your rabbit doesn’t trust you enough to let you touch them.
Why is your rabbit biting you when you’re feeding them?
If your rabbit is biting you when you’re feeding them, it’s likely that your rabbit is just being territorial about their food (food aggression). Your rabbit might also be annoyed that you’re holding their food and they want you to release them.
Why is your rabbit biting your feet?
If your rabbit is biting your feet, it could mean that your rabbit is signaling you to do something or is trying to get your attention. Most of the time, rabbits do this to tell you to get out of the way if your feet are blocking where they want to go. If you’re not blocking anything, then your rabbit is likely trying to get your attention.
Why is your rabbit biting your fingers?
If your rabbit is biting your fingers hard enough to hurt, it might be due to aggression. But, it could also mean that your rabbit loves you. Rabbits typically nibble on their owner’s fingers or other parts of the body to show affection or when playing.
In order to properly correct and avoid aggressive biting behaviors in your pet rabbits, first we have to understand the causes. This could be injuries, stress, defense mechanisms, abuse, and hormones.
After knowing the cause of this behavior, we can now do something about it.
For injuries and hormones, it’s best to consult a veterinarian to properly plan the best course of action.
For stress, you can provide toys, treats, and give your rabbits proper living space to ease their stress.
And finally, for abuse or neglect, it’s best to just be patient and give them all we can until they’re ready to trust again.
Cite this article:
Sources and Further reading
- Buseth, Marit Emilie., and Richard A. Saunders. Rabbit Behaviour, Health, and Care. CABI, 2014.
- Patry, Karen, et al. The Rabbit-Raising Problem Solver: Your Questions Answered about Housing, Feeding, Behavior, Health Care, Breeding, and Kindling. Storey Publishing, 2014.
- Basic Rabbit Care
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